No Surprise Here: Johannesburg Tops Experimental

No Surprise Here: Johannesburg Tops Experimental
Photo: Mike Corrado
Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Johannesburg, topped the Experimental Free Handicap.
To Keeneland racing official Howard Battle, it was simple when it came time to decide who was going to get top weight on the 2001 Experimental Free Handicap for males. "He won very easily. How could you not give him the top weight?"

The "he" in question is Irish-trained Johannesburg, whose dominating victory in the Oct. 27 Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) was the first for a European runner since Arazi's triumph in 1991. That was all it took for Battle, Mike Lakow of the New York Racing Association, and Tom Robbins of Del Mar to assign the Hennessy colt top weight of 126 pounds.

Unlike Arazi, who was once beaten and had competed only in France prior to his trans Atlantic journey, Johannesburg arrived at Belmont Park undefeated, boasting group I wins in France, Ireland, and England. Sent off at 7-1 in the Juvenile, Johannesburg passed his rivals in the final furlong like they were standing still to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Repent, with Siphonic another 1 1/4 lengths back in third. Johannesburg is a finalist for champion 2-year-old male and the first juvenile finalist for Horse of the Year since Favorite Trick in 1997.

As impressive as Johannesburg's victory was, it still only brought him the standard top weight. Arazi, for example, had been assigned 130 pounds--the most for a topweight since Bold Lad in 1964--and Favorite Trick was given 128 pounds. Favorite Trick was named 1997 Horse of the Year.

Siphonic, whom Battle called "the best American 2-year-old," won the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) and Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (gr. II) and was assigned second highweight of 124 pounds, In at No. 3 was Repent, who was given 123 pounds.

The committee also only had to look as far as the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) when deciding which filly should be assigned the top weight. Tempera, who won the race by 1 1/2 lengths over Imperial Gesture for her second graded stakes win, was assigned the filly standard top weight of 123 pounds.

Habibti, who won two grade I stakes and whose sole loss came in a poor performance in the Juvenile Fillies, was assigned second highweight of 121 pounds. Sharing third highweight at 120 pounds were Imperial Gesture and You.

The Experimental, published since 1933 under the auspices of The Jockey Club, is compiled for a hypothetical race at 1 1/16 miles in the spring for 3-year-olds on dirt and at one time grouped males and females together. Separate lists were started in 1985.
Horses eligible for weighting were all 2-year-olds of 2001 that finished among the first four in graded or other non-restricted races with an added value of $50,000 or more, run in the continental U.S. The committee weighted 76 males and 64 fillies, down from 99 and 80, respectively in 2000.

The rankings also come into play when assessing a horse's chances in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and are used in conjunction with the dosage theory. Race fans look to the rankings to determine which horses are "Derby dual qualifiers."

Dual qualifiers are those horses ranked within 10 pounds of the male topweight and also have a proper dosage figure to win the Churchill classic.

Eight runners were weighted within 10 pounds of Johannesburg. Conversely, 11 runners were weighted within 10 pounds of 2000 male highweight Macho Uno. Johannesburg and seven of the eight runners--Siphonic, Repent, Came Home, Publication, Buster's Daydream, Fonz's, and Saarland are dual qualifiers. The only one of the group who doesn't qualify is Officer.

Under the dosage system, each horse is assigned a Dosage Index (DI) and Center of Distribution (CD). Horses with a DI higher than 4.00 and a CD higher than 1.25 are considered genetically unlikely to win the Run for the Roses.

2001 Experimental Free Handicap-Males

2001 Experimental Free Handicap-Fillies

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